Book Review: Beren and Lúthien by J. R. R. Tolkien (Four Stars)


Book Review: Beren and Lúthien (Middle-Earth Universe) by J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

(Four Stars)

“He greatly regretted having used the word ‘Elves’, which has become ‘overloaded with regrettable tones’ that are ‘too much to overcome’. Years later, when the Elves of the Third Age had entered the history of Middle-earth, there was nothing ‘fairylike’, in the modern sense, about them.”

First published in 2017, long after the story of the title dyad appeared in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion in 1977, this volume explores the story of the story. Christopher Tolkien mines his father’s literary compost heap to dig out all the various versions of the story and propounds on the development of the tale.

And o’er the host of hell there shone
with a cold radiance, clear and wan,
the Silmarils, the gems of fate,
emprisoned in the crown of hate.

My favorite is the poem version, which JRRT never finished. He cast the lay in the same form as Beowulf and the Icelandic Edda. Sort of. The result is fun to read aloud. It has a rhythm unlike iambic pentameter and other English poetic forms.

‘O Lúthien, O Lúthien,
more fair than any child of Men,
O loveliest maid of Elfinesse,
what might of love did thee possess
to bring thee here to terror’s lair!
O lissom limbs and shadowy hair,
O flower-entwinéd brows so white,
O slender hands in this new light!’

Not recommended for any but the most die-hard Tolkien fans and students of literary etymology. Wonderful illustrations by Alan Lee. Romantics will note that the grave marker of Tolkien and his wife Eidth, at his request, identifies them as Beren and Lúthien.

“I offered them the legends of the Elder Days, but their readers turned that down. They wanted a sequel. But I wanted heroic legends and high romance. The result was The Lord of the Rings.” JRRT

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Beren and Lúthien by J. R. R. Tolkien (Four Stars)

  1. Thanks. I probably won’t read this, but I like knowing about it. Reading Patrick Rothfuss’s book for the third time after nine years. Still works, although I have a few comments about a couple scenes. Like G.R.R. Martin, he hasn’t finished his saga.

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