Books

15 things you need to know before reading J.R.R. Tolkien's 100-year-old story, Beren and Lúthien

Beren and Lúthien was one of the first stories Tolkien wrote set in Middle Earth. It was released in June 2017.
Beren and Lúthien was one of the first stories J.R.R. Tolkien wrote set in Middle Earth. (Agence France Presse/Getty Images/HarperCollinsCanada)

J.R.R. Tolkien is best known for his immortal children's story The Hobbit and his epic fantasy trilogy The Lord of the Rings. However, hardcore Tolkien fans know there is much more to this fantasy world than just these two adventures.

The story of Beren and Lúthien was one of the first stories Tolkien wrote set in Middle Earth. It was released as a stand-alone story for the first time on June 1, 2017. Before reading Beren and Lúthien, here are 15 things you need to know.

1. Beren and Lúthien is an expanded story from the realm of Middle Earth. It is primarily written in prose and verse, compiled from J.R.R. Tolkien's manuscripts.

2. The tale originally initially appeared as a chapter in The Silmarillion — Tolkien's extensive history of the universe his stories take place in.

3. Throughout his life, Tolkien wrote and rewrote the tale at least four times; first in "The Tale of Tinúviel", which was posthumously published as a part of The Book of Lost Tales; in the epic poem The Lay of Leithian; in The Silmarillion; and finally it is recounted by Aragorn in The Fellowship of the Ring.

4. Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien's youngest son, edited Beren and Lúthien. The book features many passages from Christopher helping to contextualize how the story fits into the history of Middle Earth.

6. This is only the second story to be expanded and released in this format. The first, The Children of Húrin, was released in 2007.

7. The story takes place during the First Age of Arda (Earth). For context, the Lord of the Rings trilogy takes place during the Third Age, nearly 6500 years after the events in Beren and Lúthien.

8. Beren is a mortal man and Lúthien is an immortal elf, which complicates their relationship, particularly thanks to the disapproval of Lúthien's father, Thingol.

9. Where have we seen this situation before? In the Lord of the Rings movies directed by Peter Jackson, the mortal Aragorn loves Arwen Evenstar, an elf who gives up her immortality to be with him:

10. Beren and Lúthien is primarily a love story.

11. Tolkien's wife, Edith Mary, was the inspiration for the character of Lúthien.

12. Tolkien was inspired to write Beren and Lúthien after seeing Edith dancing in a woodland grove in Roo, East Yorkshire, England in 1917. It would be 100 more years before Beren and Lúthien would be published.

14. The only major LOTR character featured in Beren and Lúthien is the evil Sauron. Thingol sends Beren on a seemingly impossible quest, that if completed, would lead to the approval of Beren and Lúthien's union. On the journey he is captured by Sauron but eventually is saved by Lúthien.

15. Lúthien is briefly mentioned in the film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (extended edition) during this scene:

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now