Yes, you read that title right. Over forty years after his death, a new book by J.R.R. Tolkien hit bookshelves on June 1st. Entitled Beren and Lùthien, this book chronicles the adventures of an immortal elf and her mortal lover:
Here's the official synopsis:
The tale of Beren and Lúthien was, or became, an essential element in the evolution of The Silmarillion, the myths and legends of the First Age of the World conceived by J.R.R. Tolkien. Returning from France and the battle of the Somme at the end of 1916, he wrote the tale in the following year.
Essential to the story, and never changed, is the fate that shadowed the love of Beren and Lúthien: for Beren was a mortal man, but Lúthien was an immortal elf. Her father, a great elvish lord, in deep opposition to Beren, imposed on him an impossible task that he must perform before he might wed Lúthien. This is the kernel of the legend; and it leads to the supremely heroic attempt of Beren and Lúthien together to rob the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril.
"Looks great," I'm sure you're thinking, "but how is this possible if he's dead?" Well, one of the things I admire most about Tolkien is the breadth of his work. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are masterpieces of modern fantasy storytelling but are, in themselves, a small portion of the entirety of Tolkien's writings. Many stories written by Tolkien and compiled and edited by his son Christopher have been published in recent years, including The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin. Both these tales record the detailed history of Middle-earth.
So what makes this story special, if it's just one of many Tolkien wrote? Here's four reasons why you should read Beren and Lùthien.
(1) This story was deeply personal to J.R.R. Tolkien. For him, the story of Beren and Lùthien was a representation of the love he had for his wife, Edith. In fact, after she died, he had "Lùthien" carved under her name on her gravestone. When he died, "Beren" was carved under his name.
(2) The manuscript has by and large been presented as Tolkien wrote it. Works such as The Silmarillion were compiled from a series of somewhat incoherent and unfinished writings by Tolkien after his death, but the description of Beren and Lùthien says, "In this book Christopher Tolkien has attempted to extract the story of Beren and Lúthien from the comprehensive work in which it was embedded; but that story was itself changing as it developed new associations within the larger history. To show something of the process whereby this legend of Middle-earth evolved over the years, he has told the story in his father's own words by giving, first, its original form, and then passages in prose and verse from later texts that illustrate the narrative as it changed. Presented together for the first time, they reveal aspects of the story, both in event and in narrative immediacy, that were afterwards lost." This fact alone makes it a must-read for Tolkien fans.
(3) This story is crucial to the Middle-earth narrative as a whole. The events in Beren and Lùthien eventually (spoiler alert!) lead to the downfall of Morgoth, which causes Sauron, his most important servant, to flee to Middle-earth. Thus began Sauron's long reign of terror of the peoples of Middle-earth, eventually culminating in the events described in The Lord of the Rings.
(4) The tale will feature some beautiful illustrations by Alan Lee, who also illustrated The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. If nothing else, you will surely appreciate the illustrations in this book. The front cover itself is a gorgeous representation of classic high fantasy art. I personally can't wait to see more of his illustrations once I get the book for myself (which, by the way, I already have my copy ordered to read after I finish The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis).
So, what do you think? Are you going to be ordering a copy of Beren and Lùthien? Let me hear your thoughts on the story in the comments!
I'm a sci-fi/fantasy lover & writer who especially likes talking about Star Wars and futuristic tech. I like finding new things & finding the beauty in old things, especially in my "Everyday Snippets" series. I hope you'll join me on my blog and unleash your imagination!