“…most fair still in the ears of the Elves is the tale of Beren and Lúthien.”
So began the chapter in The Silmarillion written by J.R.R. Tolkien, that described the epic story of how the mortal man Beren fell in love with the beautiful and immortal elf princess Luthien. Yet, her father Thingol disapproved of their romance, and tasked Beren with taking a Silmaril, a mighty and holy jewel, off the crown of Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, and return with it in his hand. So begins an epic quest on a scale such as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which in fact this tale and others in The Silmarillion lead into.
As previously stated, the tale of Beren and Luthien could be found in the pages of The Silmarillion, a prequel to Tolkien’s other Middle-earth books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately, Tolkien passed away in 1973, while writing the book, but his son Christopher Tolkien compiled his father’s notes and finished the book. As well, Christopher Tolkien would posthumously publish Unfinished Tales (1980), The History of Middle-earth (1983-1996) and The Children of Hurin (2007). Christopher Tolkien was already a collaborator with his father on some of his previous books.
Thus, it was just recently announced that Christopher Tolkien would posthumously publish Beren and Luthien in May 2017. The book will not only include the entire original epic in “his father’s own words”, but will also include his father’s later revisions in both prose and verse to highlight not only how the story evolved, revealing aspects of the story that have been previously lost.
The story of Beren and Luthien is very important not only to world of Middle-earth itself, but also to Tolkien himself. Within the context of Middle-earth itself, this is the original romance between a mortal and an elf, as this story takes place in the First Age, over six thousand years before Aragorn and Arwen in The Lord of the Rings. From Beren and Luthien’s union, their descendants would have a big impact upon Middle-earth. Especially in the case of their great-grandchildren Elrond (father of Arwen) and Elros, who decided to become a mortal and founded the royal dynasties of Numenor and Gondor, which hundreds of generations later would pass down into Aragorn. As well, on their quest to steal a Silmaril, Beren and Luthien encounter Galadriel’s brother Finrod and even Sauron himself.
For Tolkien the writer, much of himself can be found in this tale. He first began writing the tale in 1917, after surviving the horrific Battle of the Somme in World War I, which would also affect a lot of this other works. The character of Luthien herself reflected Tolkien’s love for his wife Edith. They would often go on walks together in the woods, where Edith would dance for him in a glade, which is how Beren first meets Luthien. There is also some speculation that Tolkien’s Catholic guardian disapproved of the Anglican Edith, which could have inspired Luthien’s elf father Thingol disapproving of the mortal Beren. The guardian forbade Tolkien from courting Edith until he was 21, which he followed to the letter. Though Tolkien and Edith were married, shortly afterwards he was drafted into World War I, where he had to survive many perils before returning to her.
The book Beren and Luthien will release May 2017. The cover art and book art will be drawn by Alan Lee, who has not only done work for previous Tolkien books, but was also hired by Peter Jackson to be a concept artist for the The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie trilogies. He would win an Oscar for Best Art Direction for The Return of the King.
It would seem nearly a century after Tolkien first began to write the tale of Beren and Luthien, that his tales are still inspiring countless generations of people all around the world.